Steve Rogers was born to a poor Irish family in New York during the 1920s. His father died when he was a child and pneumonia took his mother in his teen years. Slumming around as a weakling during the Depression, Rogers was noticed repeatedly trying to join the Army via a variety of means. General Chester Phillips and Dr. Abraham Erskine decided to make Rogers their candidate for the Super Soldier project dubbed “Operation: Rebirth”. Nazi saboteur Heinz Kruger kills Dr. Erskine after the procedure leaving Steve as the unique Captain America.
Captain America spent World War II initially hiding as a bumbling oaf based out of Camp LeHigh. Eventually, he would adopt the camp mascot James “Bucky” Buchanan Barnes. By adopt, I mean it in the loose 1940s entertainment sense. Basically, Bucky was a teenage runaway who illegally joined the Army and Captain America didn’t molest the kid. Hence, a new era of Marvel sidekick excitement!
Bucky would later be retconned as a Black Ops covert agent who was keeping tabs on Cap for the Government. The stuff about Bucky being a child soldier symbol of hope for the country remained from the 1940s ’til today. Eventually, the duo would join up with the Howling Commandos and the Invaders to fight Nazi forces at home and abroad. During a fateful mission against Baron Zemo XII, Cap and Bucky would be forced to ride an errant drone that was meant to destroy Washington. Bucky throws Cap off the drone, as he tries to destroy it over the North Atlantic. As Cap falls into the icy waters below, he watches as Bucky seemingly dies.
Cap was eventually rescued from the ice by Namor. A few Inuit villagers had retrieved Cap’s ice block and started to worship as a deity. Namor feeling slighted by this abnormality pitched Cap into warmer waters where he started to awaken. Thankfully, he found by the Avengers patrolling the random waterways. Why? Well, Stan Lee wrote a lot of books back then and writing is hard.
Shortly after the Avengers were founded, Cap became the defacto leader of the team within a year. Cap overthrew some aliens, fought the Masters of Evil and then recruited criminals and mutants into America’s premiere defense force. Cap would lead the team through fighting Kang, the Sons of the Serpent, the Kree Skrull War and much more. Captain America would leave the team from time-to-time due to constraints placed on him by his solo book. For example, he once chased the President into the Oval Office and made him commit suicide out of shame for being part of the Secret Empire.
Captain America would spend most of his solo career fighting the government and trying to defend Populist ideals in a darkened Republic. Sometimes, he’d become Nomad or The Captain. Other times, the government would fire him or place him under arrest. It seems like once every 5-10 years, the American government has to jump up his butt. This is how many children and slow-witted adults were introduced to the concept of the metaphor.
The legacy of Captain America on the Marvel Universe is the glue that holds the whole thing together. Captain America’s temporary death unhinged the Marvel Universe and created many events in his wake. Bucky became Captain America for a bit, while brandishing a pistol and knife. It also showed that a Stark ran Marvel Universe would eventually implode and eat itself. Captain America is important because he was one of the first heroes. But, he’s far more important because he was the first effective leader.
In terms of my favorite Marvel characters, Captain America ranks pretty high. When seeing Chris Evans translate the character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he got what made Steve Rogers and Cap work. It’s not that they are Patriotic, augmented or special. It’s that there is no difference between weakling Steve and strong Cap. Rogers is a guy that won’t step down from doing the right thing. That’s far more admirable than having a killer goatee and flying robots.